So you want to go racing!
Autocross events are a great way to engage with OVR SCCA. Also referred to as Solo®,Autocross (AX) competitions are run as obstacle courses set up in a large open lot with traffic cones. The object is to navigate around the course in the shortest possible time without hitting any of the traffic cones. AX is one of the safest forms of motorsport because the courses are open and are designed to have nothing to hit (other than traffic cones). They are also designed to limit the overall top speed to those you would see in normal driving conditions. While this may not sound like a fast-paced event, our drivers know that Autocross events can be extremely intense experiences.
The skills learned in this type of competition are also very valuable on the street. Through participating in Autocross events, our drivers have learned skills that help them instinctively swerve away from dangerous freeway situations without losing control of their cars. Several drivers even use the knowledge and experiences to add to their children’s driving education. Where else can you legally push a car to its traction limit and see what it means to steer into a skid?
Visiting a competition
Looking to participate in an Autocross event?Here are some things you should do in preparation for your trip. First and foremost, attend an event in your area without participating. Schedules can be found on motorsportreg.com or myautoevents.com. Admission is usually free for spectators. This is a great way to check out the sport. Talk to a few people as you look around. Most are glad to lend a helmet and take you for a ride in their car.
Something I should address right away is insurance waivers. This is the way SCCA and other groups protect themselves and you from anything crazy that might happen. If you are 18, you can sign on site, keep right on reading.
If you are less than 18, there are a few more steps in which you will have to take. Here are the guidelines.
- If you only want to watch, you need a signature on the waiver from one parent. This must be witnessed, so if they come with you to the event, they can sign there, if you know an SCCA member, they can witness your parent’s signature and sign away from the event, or you can take the form to a notary and have it notarized if neither of the above two work. It must be a color copy (The red writing must show up).
- If you want to ride or drive in an event, you need signatures from BOTH parents or legal guardians. If your parent has sole custody, they can check that box, but if signed off site without an SCCA witness, then the document must be notarized for us to accept it at OVR.
- For OVR if you have both parents sign in front of our registrar, you can get a minor waiver that is good all year for our solo events.
- For those under 16, you can only compete in a racing go kart. For those with a learner’s permit, you will need a licensed driver to ride with you for each run.
Some items you will want to pack for viewing an Autocross event:
- Sun screen
- Umbrella (Good for rain or too much sun!)
- Folding chair
Participating in Your First Autocross Event
If you like what you’ve seen while attending the Autocross eventand want to participate, then you might be ready to drive in your first event.
Not sure if you want to use your own every-day vehicle? Rest assured. Your baby can handle it.
We have had everything from Go-karts to mini vans run at our events. (Sorry, no SUV’s or raised trucks, the center of gravity is just to high to be safe!) Hondas and Subarus are popular but we also have Neons, Proteges, Saturns and have even had some family sedans that run with us. We also have had Porsches, Nobles, Vipers, and full race track prepared race cars.
SCCA even has a class for almost anything you can throw at us. Classes are made up of similar makes, modifications, and engine sizes. Therefore, Mustangs run with other Mustangs and Camaros while a Miata would run against MR2’s and Hondas of similar seat layout and engine size.
Our competitions are not too hard on cars, but if you keep at it, it’s best to invest in some competition tires. Standard all weather tires will get eaten up pretty fast. Some classes now require a tire that does both. Falken and Kuhmo make good tires that can be used for both street and track.
The classes are also determined by the level of modifications you have done. If you have a lot of work to your car, you may find yourself up against similar prepared cars. Don’t sweat it. Our competitors will help you get the most out of whatever you bring.
What to Bring to Your First Autocross Event
In addition to your car, you should have the following:
- Sun screen
- Folding chair
- Electrical tape (to make numbers!)
- Helmet (Snell 95 or newer) if you have one. We have loaners if you don’t
- Chalk (used to mark your tires)
- Fill your tires up to the max inflation level (This keeps your tires on the rim in hard corners. If you fill to max, you can always let some out if needed)
- Clean out your car and trunk. Nothing can be loose or roll around inside. ( I used to carry a plastic bin to put my CD’s and sunscreen in)
- Make sure your battery and spare tire are anchored down in the car.
- Tire Pressure Gauge
Your first event will be a bit intimidating. Don’t worry about that. It is for everyone. The following steps should make your visit to OVR go a bit smoother.
Don’t be afraid to let a “regular” event mark your first run
Many people wait for a Test n Tune (TNT), driver’s school, or fun run to try it out. While those are fun, low pressure events, if you can get a couple of regular events in first, it will give you a basis to improve and goals to work towards at these types of events.
Your ego will most likely get bruised, but don’t let that stop you
EVERYONE starts out this way! In my case I was overly aggressive and went wide on 3 corners (wiping out about 6 cones) and then spun once. (All on my first run) My wife on the other hand took 70 seconds to complete a “40 second” course but missed everything and completed the course successfully.
In this sport, success comes with Seat time
You will progress very quickly if you stay with it for a few events. There are very few naturals who get it right the first time. Concentrate on not getting lost and just improving your time from run to run in your first few events.
Another thing to remember is that if you sign up for the novice class, you will also be judged against other drivers at the same experience level as you rather than someone who is potentially a national champion driver.
It always helps to streamline the process by registering ahead of time when possible. With our online process through motorsportreg.com, it helps us get the classes and car counts evened out into run groups prior to the event.
OVR only allows 30 walk in registrations the day of the event.
As a driver, you can also see who else and the types of cars that you may be competing with. If you don’t know which class to sign up for, contact your Autocross Chair or Tech Chief.
Arrival at the Event
Get to your first event early. The timetable is published as part of our supplemental rules. Parking in the paddock area is available for those who are not racing. The grid is where you park when your turn to race has come. When you get to the event, find the registration area and sign the waiver.
You must check in with the OVR representative at the registration table. Show your driver’s license to them and be sure to sign up for the novice class.
While there, check for a posting of the run/work order. It will tell you when you will have your turn to race.
In order to race, youwill also have to work one heat. A heat is what we call each “group” that is currently running their cars. For, OVR the day is broken down into 3-4 heats depending on how many people we have running that day.
If you race, you work, period. It’s just part of the game.
As a novice you will be randomly assigned a work assignment unless you noted a physical restriction on your registration. Then we will find an appropriate work slot for you. Your work assignment will be done at the start of the heat in which you work. There are many worker positions and they include:
- Corner worker: Stand at a designated area on course and pick up the cones that cars knock down.
- Starter: Starts the cars so they are evenly and safely spaced
- Grid Worker: Directs cars where to go when getting ready to enter the track or exiting the track
- Waiver Worker: Makes sure everyone who enters the event site signs the appropriate waiver form
- Timing and Scoring: Record the times of the cars as they finish
- Announcer: Announce the finish times and run groups
- Security: Walk around the paddock and make sure everyone present has been sent to the waiver person
- Time Slips: Record the time that a driver achieved and give it to them as they exit the course
- Photographer Spotter: Protect the photographer from oncoming traffic on the track.
- Sound Monitoring: Using a sound meter, you will record the color and car number of any competitor that exceeds the club’s maximum sound level so the stewards can contact the competitor about the infraction.
You may also hear the term “Chiefs” at an event. These are the folks that are picked by the chairman to head each of the work areas listed above as well as the safety steward positions. These volunteers work before and after events to help them run smoothly and if you have any questions, do not be afraid to go ask them. They will happily help you.
Tech Inspection and Track Walking
Once you’ve gone through the registration and Heat assignment process, you will take your car to Tech for inspection.
Tech is where your vehicle will be checked for safety along with your helmet if you brought one. As mentioned above, you must use a helmet that has either a Snell A or M rating and is a 95 or newer. Both open face and closed face versions are allowed. You must go through Tech each race. Once passed, go start walking around the course. A big challenge the first few races is not getting lost in the sea of cones. Tag along with an experienced racer if you know one.
Then, start listening for the novice meeting and drivers meeting announcements.
The novice meeting starts at the back of Moby (our Great White equipment truck)
An OVR representative will lead this meeting and cover the following information;
- Rules of the event
- Schedule for the day’s events
- When to move to Grid
- How to work a corner
They will also do a course walk with you. If you are still nervous, they will ride with you or find an instructor to go with you when you go out on course. If you are in the younger crowd, you will join the Go-karters who will do the same tour.
The mandatory driver’s meeting comes next. It coincides with the novice and kart groups completing their walk and gives out general announcements for the club events, general site safety and any adjustments to the run/work order as a result of walk in registrations.
Because of the safety issues, you MUST be at this meeting. If you are working on your car or arrive late instead, you can get disqualified and asked to leave with no refund.
Grid and Worker assignments
Upon the conclusion of the Driver’s Meeting, the first run group moves their cars to Grid.
Depending on where we are racing, 2nd run group may also park in a Grid B. All karts always park in their own grid which is away from the cars.
Workers for the first group will stay at Moby where they are checked off the registration list and sent to their work assignment. As a novice, you will be teamed up with a knowledgeable person to get your on-job training.
If you are driving by yourself, park somewhere in the middle of your run group. This allows you to watch others go first and learn from how they drive the course. The end of the grid closest to the track entrance is reserved for two driver cars.
At the start of the event, the first driver goes out right away and then about halfway through the grid, they will send the second driver out. If you are in the middle of the pack, it’s a good idea to watch the first 3 or 4 drivers and then go back to your car to drive the course in your mind.
Watch the grid workers to tell you when to go. The starter will indicate where to stop and then give you a go signal. When he does, take a deep breath, put the car in gear, and go have fun!!!
Clean Up and Tear Down
At the end of the day, we have clean up and awards. Everyone pitches in for the clean-up, as stacking cones and packing Mobybecomes short work with many hands.
At the end of the day, the following will be awarded:
- 5 fastest novice drivers by PAX (a handicapping system that equalizes car performances)
- Fastest regular PAX driver
- Fastest overall time of the day
You’re an Autocross Driver!
Congratulations! You’ve just completed your first Autocross event!
Now it’s time to hang up your helmet, put your car in park, and go dream about all of the exciting opportunities that lay ahead of you for your next event!